Chronic pain management by Swiss specialist physicians with the primary hypothesis that pain clinic practitioners conform better to good practice (interdisciplinarity, diagnostic/therapeutic routines, quality control, education) than other specialists treating chronic pain was surveyed. Management of all types of chronic pain by pain clinic practitioners and rheumatologists, oncologists or neurologists was compared via a mailed questionnaire survey (n=125/group). Two hundred and twenty-nine (46%) of 500 mailed questionnaires were returned with similar group return rates. Eighty-six percent of responders find chronic pain therapy very difficult/difficult; they estimate only 45% of these patients achieve good outcomes. Twenty-three per cent of responders belong to an interdisciplinary pain centre, but 72% of chronic pain patients are treated by responders alone. Fifty-nine percent never/only occasionally use therapeutic algorithms, 38% use formal pain diagnostic procedures, 20% have a pain quality control programme. Fifty-one percent lack past pain education, 37% do not attend continuing pain education, 69% agree that pain education is their greatest need. Pain clinic practitioners are more interdisciplinary and use more pain diagnostics than other specialists. They are matched by oncologists in education and success in therapeutic escalation, and bettered by them in algorithm use. Pain clinic practitioners and oncologists bring particular-differing-skills to chronic pain management compared to rheumatologists and neurologists. Chronic pain management diversity may result from differences in malignant and benign pain, and its generally being provided by the speciality treating the underlying cause. This survey identifies targets for improvement in areas fundamental to good chronic pain practice: interdisciplinarity, diagnostic/therapeutic tools, quality management and education.
Copyright 2001 European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain.